Bobby Pope

Bobby Pope: Lanier players gathering to remember title team

Lanier had one of the top high school athletics programs in the state of Georgia in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, especially in basketball.

Between 1922 and 1951, the Poets captured 17 state basketball titles. They also won their share of football crowns, taking five of those, and when the GHSA was formed in 1946 and state championships were established for baseball, Lanier claimed two of those in 1947 and 1965. But for almost all of the final two decades of Lanier’s athletics history, state championships were hard to come by. That 1965 state baseball title was the first for any sport at Lanier since the track and field team captured the crown in 1953. It was also the final state championship for any sport in school history.

On Thursday evening, surviving members (five are deceased, as is head coach Bobby Brown) will gather at teammate Chuck Ogburn’s home for a 50-year reunion and will share memories from that historic 1965 team. The “Comeback Kids” would have been an appropriate moniker for that 20-man squad since it was on the ropes in both the Class AAA semifinals against Groves of Savannah and in the championship series against Griffin.

The Poets captured the 1-AAA championship, which earned them a berth in the state semifinals against Groves. Lanier won the opener in the best-of-three series, beating the Rebels 1-0 as pitcher Art Dorminy went five innings and allowed just three hits. Lanier was no-hit through five innings before scoring the game’s only run in the sixth on an infield single by Jimmy Dominy. Terry Clifton led off the inning with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sam Rivers and then scored on Dominy’s hit.

The series moved to Savannah for the second game and the third game, if necessary, and it was. Groves forced the deciding third game with a 6-1 victory, and then in the final game, Lanier scored three runs in the seventh inning to overcome a 3-1 deficit and take a 4-3 win to advance to the state title series. A bases-loaded walk got Lanier to within a run at 3-2, and then a squeeze bunt by Joe Wall plated two runs, which proved to be the difference. Groves mishandled the throw to first, allowing Terry Dennis to score from third and Mike Mayo, who raced home from second.

In the championship series played at Griffin, the Poets were trounced by the Eagles 9-2 in the opener of the best-of-three as Lanier committed three errors. Lanier evened the series at one win each with a 10-5 decision in the second game to set up the rubber game. In the second game, Dennis had four RBI on a three-run homer and a single, with Ricky Hall getting the win going 5-1/3 innings.

In the deciding game, the Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead, only to see Lanier battle back. Terry Clifton had two RBI in the win while Dorminy pitched a five-hitter with seven strikeouts and just one walk.

Dorminy, a junior southpaw, finished the year with an 11-4 record with 192 strikeouts in 103-1/3 innings. He pitched a perfect game that season against Moultrie, striking out 17 of the 21 batters he faced. Ogburn, who had two hits in the championship game, finished his senior season with a .437 batting average.

The final game with Griffin was the final one at Lanier for Brown. He already had announced that he would be leaving the school to take a position at the new school in town, Mark Smith. Brown stayed there for five seasons before taking over at Stratford, where he coached football for seven seasons and won three state titles. He also coached football at FPD for nine years, winning another state football title with the Vikings. In 16 seasons as a football head coach, Brown compiled a 131-41-1 record.

Ogburn, who was the leading hitter in Region 1-AAA his senior season, and teammate Rivers both were invited to play in the Georgia High School All-Star baseball game following the state playoffs. Ogburn had two hits for the winning South team in that game, which was one of the first ever played at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium. The Braves didn’t move to Atlanta until the 1966 season.

Incidentally the South team was coached by then Willingham athletics director and baseball head coach Billy Henderson.

Eight members of the 1965 Lanier team went on to play college baseball.

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